AIA President William J. Bates, FAIA, shares his thoughts on the year ahead

On Friday December 7, 2018, William J. Bates, FAIA, was inaugurated as the 2019 President of the American Institute of Architects. Read his inaugural remarks as prepared for delivery:

"Thank you all for joining us this evening as we celebrate the transition of leadership in the 162-year old American Institute of Architects.

I’m honored and humbled by the opportunity to represent the nearly 93,000 men and women who are the AIA. In the year ahead, I hope to add my small contribution to AIA’s long, rich tradition of advocacy and leadership.

I am also mindful of what my standing here means in the long sweep of that 162-year history. I’m not focused on the fact that I’m the second African American to be AIA’s president.

What I am focused on is the day when we no longer notice the second, third, or fourth of any group.  I am focused on a future where architecture is recognized not just for the unique expertise and skills we bring to solving our society’s most challenging problems, but also as a profession where anyone, without regard to race, gender or wealth can excel and achieve their highest dreams unfettered by biases both covert and overt.

During my tenure as your president, and thereafter, I will focus on helping to make our profession one that welcomes and nurtures the talent of everyone who has a passion for design and who dreams of making our built world, and by extension our society, better.

As a first-generation college student and third-generation steelworker, the profession of architect appeared late on my radar. However, once introduced, I was hooked. I still am.

As I thought about what I would say tonight, I kept returning to the fact that no one realizes their dreams without the support and love of his or her family and friends.

So, before I continue, I’d like to recognize my wife Maggie, our three children, their spouses, and three grandchildren who are here this evening. Would you all please stand so that everyone can see those who have given me continual encouragement and support along my path to this evening. Having you here with me tonight makes this honor even more special. Thank you.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to the many colleagues over the years who have been role models, and mentors, most notably Kemper Medal winner, David Lewis, FAIA, Kemper Medal and Whitney Young Medal winner, Bob Coles, FAIA,  and former National AIA President, Syl Damianos, FAIA. Throughout my career, I have been the fortunate beneficiary of their wise counsel and others like them. To each of you, I extend my heartfelt appreciation.

Through the years, I have remained involved because I believe in AIA’s ability to encourage the next generation of architects and to advance the profession.  My membership in the AIA has been an integral part of my long career, starting with AIAS as a student.

As a professional, my involvement began as a deal between me and my employer and future business partner Joe Celento, who offered to pay my AIA dues if I promised to become an active committee member. I’ve spent the last 40 years, proudly, keeping that promise with no regrets. Since leaving private practice, I’ve also been fortunate to have had a succession of generous corporate employers who have encouraged my participation with the AIA.

More than once I’ve been asked why I choose to devote so much time to AIA.   My answer is simple and constant:  because I believe AIA is vital to helping architects do what we do best: express in wood, concrete, glass, and steel the tremendous creativity, ingenuity, and highest ideals of our society.

The people in this room and our colleagues around the globe are helping to improve our world while addressing humanity's needs and aspirations through the structures and spaces your genius creates.

Tonight's setting, the headquarters for the U.S. Institute of Peace, is a good example. In the words of AIA 2015 Gold Medal winner and the project's architect, Moshe Safdie, this building is, "by definition the physical symbol of peace in the capital's skyline."

This remarkable building is symbolic of the power of architecture to provide shelter, but most importantly, to express our noblest aspirations, ideals, and values.

I remain convinced that architects are vital to finding the solutions to many of the challenges of our time, from mitigating climate change, to securing social justice and economic opportunity for all, but only if we make the most of the talent of everyone, without regard to race, gender, or economic circumstance.

Rosa Parks once said, “Each person must live his or her life as a model for others.” Given all the talent within this great organization and in our profession, I want to encourage all of us to be role models, as architects and as citizens. Let’s work together toward a future where everyone’s dreams can become their reality.

My dream is for architects to lead efforts to create a more fair, sustainable, and peaceful world that embraces all, and disenfranchises none.

Our shared dream should be to leave the next generation of architects a profession that is inclusive and diverse, and that nurtures the creativity and talent of anyone who dreams of advancing society through a better-built world.

I would be remiss if I did not take the time to recognize the individuals who work together for our AIA:

First, those who gave us such a great foundation upon which to build: Our new Richard Upjohn Fellows and the new Louise Blanchard Bethune Fellows. I would also like to recognize Jane Frederick, FAIA, our 2019 First Vice President, the 2019 Board of Directors, Bruce Turner, AIA, 2019 Strategic Council moderator, the 2019 Strategic Council, EVP/Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy, FAIA, and the AIA staff and of course, the members of my class, the Class of 2014."

To learn more about AIA's leaders, visit our leadership page.

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